Festive Pork Roast

Confession – I’m scared of roasts. I tend to fear under-cooking the meat and poisoning people, which ends up over-cooking the meat and making it tough. But, though we’d give it a try. DJ Snuggle Monster mentioned that this roast tasted like the holidays. Definitely has a homey, cold weather feel for sure. It’s got a salty cheese, an herby sage, and a sweet, fruity jam with your big ole’ honking meat. (And of course it is pork, because I live with the King of Pork). Plus, because it’s a stuffed roast, some of the cheesy fruity goodness leaks out and gets extra crispy – which is the part I LOVE.

This is another test recipe of a Gordon Ramsay recipe, but with some tweaks. Tweaks were necessary with this one, because well, unless you live in the great NYC or London Town, it is wicked difficult to find a pork roast with the skin on from any butcher (let alone from Publix, where the butchers have been nothing but unhelpful, rude, and condescending to me…but here I actually did call some local butchers to no avail too). As much as I love some cracklin, the roast was still pretty damned good minus the skin. Just make sure you find a roast with a bit of fat on it to stand up to the cooking time and add some depth of flavor.

Also something that might require a tweak…the original recipe calls for membrillo. Never heard of it? Don’t panic – it’s not that easy to find state side. It’s a jelly made from quince…which tastes like a combination of pear and apple. If you can’t find it, don’t fret – find either an apple jelly or a pear jelly and just use that. No big deal. Just try not to get one with seeds in (so no “preserves” or “jam”). Apparently Whole Foods does carry it. Or you can find it relatively easily on Amazon.com according to DJ Snuggle Monster who was not satisfied with the idea of a substitution (and who also luckily has Amazon Prime with two day shipping). Additionally – no panic required if you see the cheese is Manchego cheese. I promise you, Publix does carry this spanish cheese. But, if they haven’t straightened up/cleaned up their cheese island in the deli, you’ll either have to be really nice to an employee there or fish it out yourself. But, they do carry it! I promise! If you give up or can’t find it, you can use a good salty, melty cheese like a Pecorino-Romano.

I know I’ve said a few things that might turn some people off, or just straight scare them. But I promise, this was easier than you think and the substitutions we found work just as well. Now…ready to brave the nuts and bolts? Sure you are!

Timing: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Servings: 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 pound pork loin roast, with a good fat cap or at least some fat on it (let stand an hour at room temperature before you intend to start cooking)
  • 6 ounces Manchego cheese (or pecorino), thinly sliced
  • 5 ounces membrillo (or pear or apple jelly)
  • 3 sage stems
  • 4-5 thyme stems (try to get the ones with a good bunch on it)
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally (go ahead and leave the skin/paper on – it won’t kill you)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3/4 cup medium-dry sherry (not cream sherry, although I love that with a bit of heavy cream in a pan sauce to cover pork chops with; you can find these in the cheap wine section of Publix too)
  • Kitchen twine

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prep the pork loin roast for the stuffing.

Lay the pork loin (best side up – or fat side up) on a large cutting board. Cut the pork loin lengthwise 3/4 of the way (like you are creating a book). Cut until the piece lays flat, but is not cut through all the way. Season the inside well with salt and pepper. Layer the cheese and slices (or dollops) of the jelly/membrillo near the center (or the binding of the book if we’re still in that analogy). Strip 1 stalk of sage leaves from the stalk and lay on top of the layers. Roll the meat up TIGHT. Like really tight. You want as much of that stuffing to stay inside the meat and keep it moist. Cut 4-5 pieces of kitchen twine and tie at 1 inch intervals along the length of the meet – again, making it TIGHT.

Place your garlic, cut side down, in a shallow oven-proof and burner-proof pan (something that can go on top of the stove and cook and in the oven and cook…think a roasting pan or a shallow paella pan). Put the garlic relatively close together – you want the pork roast to nestle on top of it and not touch the bottom of the pan. Also throw in the rest of the sage stems and thyme stems (yep, stem and all!). Put the pork on top of the garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and salt and pepper really well. Slap that pork like a new born baby’s butt and put in the oven.

Cook the pork at 425 for 20 minutes. Drop the oven down to 350 and cook for another 30 minutes. That’s all you need – do not overcook! The perfume from this bad boy will make your mouth water and your house smell amazing. Remove the pork from the oven, remove from the pan to a plate, and tent with foil. This is the second crucial step to roasts (besides not overcooking). You HAVE to let that sucker rest. It will continue to cook a bit and the juices will be re-absorbed into the meat. That way when you cut it, it doesn’t get dry and you have a pool of juice left on your plate. Let rest for 10 minutes.

After the meat has rested for five minutes, put the pan on the stove over medium heat. When it gets rip-roaring hot, add your sherry and stir up all those stuck-on bits with a wooden spoon. The French call this the frond – the burnt pieces. But it is the stuff with the MOST flavor (swear it’s not burnt – unless you got crazy). Squeeze the garlic out of its shell and break it up a bit too. It will be soft as butter…sorry, as buttah. Salt and pepper this loveliness and taste it! Lower the heat to a simmer until your meat is done resting. When you’re ready to slice, put the roast on a cutting board and drop all those lovely juices from your resting plate into the sauce.

Slice the pork, using the twine as serving markers (unless you got a little generous or a little scant). Use a really sharp knife. Heads up – it will be hot still. Use a towel to protect your hand – you can always wash it (or use a paper towel doubled up). Put your slices back on a presentation plate and strain the sauce from the pan directly over the slices. Voila!

See? Easy – you do a bit of prep, a bit of carving (no, not as serious as the turkey on Thanksgiving Day), but you don’t have to do anything but take it easy while it’s in the oven. Heck – you might want to even think about substituting it on Turkey Day for the turkey it’s so stress-free!

How Gordon presents the pork roast...mine will never look as good (but hey, your's might!)
How Gordon presents the pork roast…mine will never look as good (but hey, your’s might!)
Individual Pork Roast slice with Sherry Sauce
Individual Pork Roast slice with Sherry Sauce
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